Congress granted 25,600 acres of public land for every mile of track which was laid
1870 Construction of the North Pacific Railroad began.
In the east, near Lake Superior
1871-2 First Yellowstone Expedition
Track was to be laid from Bismarck to Bozeman,
Foot soldiers accompanied surveyors and the expedition was curtailed because of constant attacks by the Lakota.
1872-3 Second Yellowstone Expedition
Led by Custer, engagements with Lakota took place with the Lakota on 4 August and 11 August
1874 Black Hills Expedition
Gold was discovered at French Creek. The incursion onto land promised to the Lakota under the agreements signed at Fort Laramie in 1851 and 1868 by the railroad was now compounded by an invasion of gold miners.
1875 US Government offered to buy the land from the Lakota. It was important for hunting, a source of lodge poles and an area sacred to them. Commissioners were told by Red Cloud that the asking price was $600,000,000, so far in excess of the Commissioners’ valuation that it rendered negotiation futile. Tactics previously rehearsed in the southern plains were now re-enacted in the north. Lakota and Northern Cheyenne were given notice to ‘come in’ to Fort Robinson in Nebraska: those not doing so would be deemed ‘hostile’.
Late 1875 Belknap instructed the Commissioner of Indians affairs that the native Americans were to be told to come in to the reservation by 31 January 1876.
Tactics previously rehearsed in the southern plains were now re-enacted in the north. Lakota and Northern Cheyenne were given notice to ‘come in’ to Fort Robinson in Nebraska: those not doing so would be deemed ‘hostile’.
“ This must have convinced many Sioux leaders to lose faith in the good intentions of the government” Usher Burdick, The Last Battle of the Sioux Nation, 1929 p 19
Whereas in the south the army had attacked the native Americans from five sides, the strategy of the Little Bighorn campaign was to mount a three-pronged advance on the area south of the Yellowstone River. Officially the plan was to surround and bring any “hostiles” into the reservation. The expectation was that the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne would try to elude the troops and/or engage them in battle. The tactic of attacking the villages of the native Americans of the Plains, pioneered successfully against the Comanche in Texas during the 1840s by Jack “Coffee” Hays, had been effective in ending resistance in the southern Plains in the Red River War 1874-5.
General Alfred Terry’s force, including Custer and the 7th Cavalry, advanced from Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, in the east. The western column from Fort Ellis, Montana Territory, was commanded by Colonel John Gibbon, who moved his troops eastwards along the banks of the Yellowstone River. While Terry commanded both his own and Gibbon’s forces, and they were in close enough contact to rendezvous on the steamer The Far West at the confluence of the Rosebud and Yellowstone rivers. General George Crook was independent of Terry’s jurisdiction, being in sole command of those coming up from Fort Fetterman, Wyoming Territory, in the south. Consequently the Crook’s defeat/ withdrawal from the area the week before the Custer Battle was not known to Terry.